North Korea threatens to build an ICBM, President-elect Trump goes wild. North Korea actually tests a missile that could hit Japan or South Korea, President Trump says nothing. The world is shocked Trump
when it came to North Korea and its pathetic, but dangerous, obsession with nuclear weapons:
“In his torrent of New Year’s tweets, Donald Trump included a verbal blast at the televised New Year’s Day message of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,
who once again threatened that his country was on the verge of developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear strike against the US.
As usual, Trump took the bait, and bit hard, saying that such a development “won’t happen !!!” —
a typically bellicose rejoinder that leaves unstated how, exactly, Trump intends to STOP such a thing from happening,
an ambiguity that understandably worried several experts on both North Korea and nuclear weapons generally,
who asked if Trump was planning to stop Pyongyang by force from developing those capabilities.
Regardless, both Trump and the bevy of appalled experts are missing the main point about North Korea nukes —
the danger is NOT from whether they can hit the US …
but how likely a situation can develop where they are used against US ALLIES IN ASIA — specifically South Korea or Japan …
THIS is the real danger from North Korea to the US …
because ANY such use of nukes would raise the possibility of a US response, especially from a President Trump …
And since the ONLY possible rein on Kim Jong-un is China, one has to wonder if Trump has the slightest inkling that
his constant anti-China provocations could make the use of North Korean nukes in East Asia very far from “unthinkable” —
which therefore raises the spectre of a US nuclear strike near the Chinese mainland as a distinctly real possibility … “
We see no reason to change that view now …
Indeed, if anything, as we noted after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ trip to South Korea and Japan,
there is now even MORE danger of a scenario like this developing:
“Mattis emphasized that the US’ relationship with its East Asian allies has not fundamentally changed.
In Japan, that included assurances about Article 5 of the treaty,
which commits the United States to helping defend territory that Japan administers should it be attacked.
“Due to some of the provocations out of North Korea and other challenges that we jointly face,
I want to make certain that Article 5 of our mutual defense treaty is understood to be as real to us today
as it was a year ago, five years ago, and as it will be a year and 10 years from now,” Mattis told Japanese Premier Abe …
Earlier Friday, Mattis wound up a two-day visit to Seoul, South Korea,
where he sought to reassure officials that
the American commitment to defend their country,
particularly in the face of North Korea’s accelerating nuclear threat,
was also unchanged.
“Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated,”
Mattis said in a joint appearance with the South Korean defense minister, Han Min-koo.
“And any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” he added,
using a formulation that has been employed by previous Pentagon chiefs … ”
So people shouldn’t be so worried about North Korea developing an inter-continental ballistic missile, altho that is a real concern.
Instead, they should wonder what Trump’s America will do if — as is much more likely —
any North Korean nuclear strike is made against US allies South Korea or Japan … … …
Here is the New York Times on Trump’s unexpectedly restrained response to the North Korean missile test …
“After North Korea threatened on New Year’s Day to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, Donald J. Trump, then president-elect, reacted with characteristic bluster.
He vowed to stop the North from developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States. “It won’t happen!” he wrote on Twitter.
But six weeks later, after North Korea defiantly launched a missile into the sea, Trump, now president, reacted with surprising restraint.
Appearing before cameras late at night on Saturday in Florida with his golfing guest, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan,
Trump read a statement of just 23 words that pledged American support for Tokyo — without even mentioning North Korea.
The muted comment stood in sharp contrast to his response after Iran tested a ballistic missile,
when he directed his national security adviser to publicly warn Tehran that he was “officially putting Iran on notice” and followed up with sanctions.
If North Korea was testing the new president, as many analysts believe, then Trump seemed intent on showing
he would not be baited into a confrontation every time an American adversary tried to provoke him.
“I assume they don’t have a strategy yet, so Trump with Abe by his side was properly taciturn, surprisingly so,”
said Jeffrey A. Bader, an Asia scholar at the Brookings Institution who served as President Barack Obama’s Asia adviser.
“But that can’t hold. At some point you need to articulate a strategy.”
The tempered response may also have reflected the fact that
the missile launched on Sunday by North Korea was either a medium- or an intermediate-range missile,
according to the American military, and not an intercontinental missile, or ICBM, capable of reaching the United States.
The missile flew 310 miles before dropping harmlessly into the Sea of Japan,
according to the South Korean military, which identified it as an intermediate-range Musudan.
North Korea regularly tests missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions, including roughly two dozen last year,
but has boasted that it could test an ICBM “anytime and anywhere.”
The kind tested on Sunday poses a potential threat to American allies in Japan and South Korea and American forces in the Pacific, but could not strike the US.
“It’s yet unclear what missile was tested,” said Thomas Karako, a missile expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“What is certain is that North Korea has now begun 2017 by continuing the aggressive pace of missile testing they’ve shown in recent years.”
North Korea challenged Obama early in his tenure, too, with an underground nuclear blast four months after he took office.
The effect was to harden Obama’s attitude toward North Korea for the rest of his presidency, according to former aides.
Rather than try to negotiate, as both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did,
Obama focused on tightening international sanctions and bolstering alliances with Japan and South Korea.
Three weeks in office, the Trump administration is still trying to find its footing on foreign policy,
especially in areas like North Korea that have not been Trump’s main focus.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was sworn in on Feb. 1 and does not even have a deputy, much less a full team of trusted advisers, in place.
Asia experts and members of Congress praised Trump for reaffirming American support for Japan
but lamented that he did not mention South Korea at the same time.
“I was glad he issued the statement with the prime minister of Japan, but he ought to do it quickly with South Korea,”
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.
“South Korea is probably more susceptible to North Korea’s virulence than any other country.”
White House officials on Sunday remained quiet about the test and their emerging strategy …
Short of military action, the menu of options available for Trump is not significantly better than it was for his predecessors.
The US and the UN have already imposed an array of wrenching sanctions
and have largely isolated North Korea from much of the world.
On his first overseas trip since taking office, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Japan and South Korea to reassure them of America’s support
despite statements by Trump during the campaign that called it into question.
South Korean officials agreed to press ahead with development of a new missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad.
Most policy makers consider China crucial to any meaningful response to North Korea, given the nations’ extensive economic and political connections,
but it remains uncertain that Trump would have any better chance of persuading Beijing to take tougher action.
Trump had a fence-mending telephone call with President Xi Jinping of China last week
and promised to stick by America’s longstanding “One China” policy, reportedly at Tillerson’s urging.
But the president has been an unrelenting critic of China on trade and currency matters,
and some of his top advisers, including Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, view China as a long-term adversary.
“We will learn an enormous amount about his policy and his administration by how he deals with North Korea,”
said Evan S. Medeiros, a managing director at the Eurasia Group and a former Obama adviser.
“It’s the land of really bad options, and the threat is only becoming more serious and the window is closing.
It will probably become the defining security challenge for the next president in Asia, if not globally.””